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Experts meet to discuss improving U.S.-China trade

March 03, 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently wrapped up a week-long trip to Beijing and other key cities in Asia, her first overseas visit since taking office and a demonstration of how important she considers relations between the United States and the region. Here in America, some of the top minds in the business, legal, academic and policy worlds are also focusing on trade relations between the United States and China by gathering for a series of three invitation-only forums to produce recommendations for improvement.

“These ‘think tank’ forums were created to coincide with the 30th anniversary of China’s open-door policy and the beginning of the new administration in Washington, D.C.,” says Dean Robert E. Mittelstaedt of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. ASU is partnering with the nonprofit Kearny Alliance to sponsor the series. “We’re bringing together policy makers, legal experts, business leaders, faculty and others to identify critical issues in U.S.-China trade relations and make recommendations for lasting economic development.”

Among the significant participants who attended the first forum in Phoenix on Feb. 26 and 27 were Nobel Prize-winning Professor Edward Prescott, the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics at Arizona State University; Merle A. Hinrichs, chairman and CEO of Global Sources; and Clyde Prestowitz, founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading publications. The theme of the forum was “How can the world’s two economic superpowers lead together?” The discussion focused on how timing and developments will play a key role in U.S.-China trade relations.

“With both the United States and China engaged in pushing forward economic stimulus plans, this is a very good time to consider priorities for the future,” says Mittelstaedt. “We noted that China’s economy is now following a development pattern similar to that of the U.S. in the early 20th century, so we can look to history for some answers about how this will play out. Also, the pace of new technology development and the choices made regarding further economic integration will affect the rate of growth for both countries.”

Dr. John E. Walsh Jr., board chair of The Kearny Alliance and professor emeritus of management at the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University, says, “China and the U.S. must lead the world forward in international trade relations. Our focus is to help pave the way for that relationship to flourish. Quite simply, in China-U.S. trade relations, there is no divorce.”

“Addressing the knotty issues of international trade policy requires the active engagement and interaction of the legal, business and policy communities,” says Dean Paul Schiff Berman of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. “Bringing those communities together is the kind of role that a public university must play. I am, therefore, thrilled that the law school and business school at ASU, together with the Kearny Alliance, have convened this high-level series of discussions.”

A white paper with recommendations from the Phoenix forum will be released in a few weeks. The other two forums in the series will take place in Beijing in mid-September and in Washington, D.C., at the end of the year. They will look at the needs, responsibilities and roles of China and the United States in future trade relations.